Leopard is the most popular print in the fashion industry. Worn by tribal chiefs and sex symbols alike, it stands for danger and glamour. But the biggest danger is faced by the leopard itself: it is the most persecuted animal around the world for its skin.
Leopards’ survival in the wild was the focus of the Caucasus Cat Summit I attended earlier this week in Baku, Azerbaijan. The event was hosted by Leyla Aliyeva, the daughter of the country’s President who is actively engaged in a number of environmental initiatives through her International Dialogue for Environmental Action (IDEA) campaign and is a rather fashionable lady herself.
While legal international trade in leopards has been prohibited for decades – other than in exceptional circumstances – illegal hunting and killing continues. In the Caucasus itself, leopards are facing imminent extinction unless something is done urgently to save them. The good news is that there were some fresh leopard prints (the animal, not fabric) spotted in the country not long ago, which culminated in the elusive animal finally being caught on camera.
And fashion can play an important role in changing the fate of this magnificent feline. Hardly a season passes without leopard print being on trend, while in some cultures leopard skins are a status symbol. Christian Dior was the first designer to put leopard print – rather than fur – on the runway in 1947, something that conservationists should be thankful for!
In a much welcome development, Zulu warriors in South Africa have recently swapped leopard skins for faux fur. Inspired by this story, here are some other cruelty-free ways to wear leopard spots. Let’s hope that leopards in the wild will be as enduring as the leopard print trend in fashion!
Stella McCartney’s Noemi Leopard Print Tote made as part of the UN Ethical Fashion Initiative. Each bag is created by hand and the project has reached 160 people in poverty stricken areas of Kenya.
Cri de Coeur Vegan Bounty Leopard Print Cork Sandals. Cri de Coeur are a leading shoe designer based in New York and making only strictly vegan shoes made with responsible manufacturers in Europe. I love how the green strap adds playfulness to this otherwise basic wedge.
Vivienne Westwood Anglomania pixelated leopard print trench coat is my favourite. The ‘Mad Explorer’-inspired pattern is blown-up to create a geometric look, and it comes with a matching belt so you can experiment with different silhouettes.
For fair trade lovers, here is a leopard print silk scarf by NV Calcutta London, also available in red.
Finally, another Stella McCartney staple: biodegradable leopard print sunglasses from her sustainable eyewear collection. Miaow!